March 7, 2006

China official says police held for protestor deaths

By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Some police have been detained for not
following orders properly after shooting protesters to death in
China's southern Guangdong province in December, the provincial
governor said on Tuesday.

At least three people died and eight were wounded in
Guangdong's Dongzhou village when police shot villagers
protesting against a lack of compensation for land lost to a
wind power plant, the government said.

Villagers put the number of dead as high as 20.

"At the scene, some police did not follow orders properly,
leading to mistaken firings and mistaken deaths," governor
Huang Huahua told a news conference on the sidelines of the
annual meeting of China's parliament.

"Their supervisors have detained these people for
investigation," Huang added.

But he stuck by the official line that the unrest was
caused by a small element of lawbreakers. "They mislead the
unwitting masses," Huang said.

China is grappling with growing social unrest, fueled by
disputes over land rights, corruption and a growing gap between
rich and poor. Maintaining stability in the face of breakneck
change is a theme of this year's parliament.

The nearly 3,000 delegates to the largely ceremonial
National People's Congress are meeting for their 10 day annual
session to discuss and approve policies set in place by the
ruling Communist Party.

In his speech to the opening session on Sunday, Premier Wen
Jiabao pledged to better handle "public order disturbances" of
which the Ministry of Public Security said there were 87,000
last year.

Residents of Dongzhou said it was the armed police, a
paramilitary unit, that opened fire, but a government official
said this week they were regular police and they were acting in
self-defense against villagers armed with pipe bombs.

Government officials say the building of the wind farm is
going ahead and that residents have now been properly
compensated, though some local people dispute this.